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Ruth, 18 year old with Margot

18-year-old Ruth with Margot

Liselotte: Saint

Ruth: Derived from the Hebrew word רְעוּת (re’ut) meaning “friend”.

Margot: Child of light. Persian

Liselotte was born just a couple of years after the first World War on a summer day in August of 1920. Unfortunately, photographs and stories of Liselotte’s (Ruth’s)  childhood, if they ever existed, are lost. It is known however, that she was raised with two sisters.

Childhood couldn’t have been easy for Ruth who grew up during the Great Depression and came of age at the beginning of the second World War. It would follow that food and basic necessities were scarce. It is likely that Ruth may have also been abused as a child.

At age 17, Ruth married and one year later at 18, she gave birth to the first of six children. It was a hard life, six children and a husband five years her senior, away at war for most of the early years of their young family. At some point alcoholism became part of Ruth’s reality, perhaps as a way to cope with her difficult circumstances.

Ruth was physically strong for a woman – a trait that was passed down to the women of the next generations.

Ruth and her husband, Fritz spent a lot of time at the bar. Fritz had lost his leg to Gangrene after being injured in the war and had a wooden leg. One of his favourite pranks was to sit beside a stranger and hit the stranger’s leg as hard as he could. Predictably, the stranger would hit him back, not knowing that Fritz’s leg was made of wood. Now, not only did his leg hurt, but so did his hand – all to the great amusement of Fritz who was said to laugh loudly each time his scheme worked.

Once while Ruth was waiting for her husband on the ground floor of the building they lived in, she could hear her child screaming from their apartment a few floors up. She ran up the stairs, burst into the apartment, and screamed at her husband to stop whipping their daughter for taking a piece of bread.

Fritz died in his 50’s due to severe health issues with his leg complicated by his excessive drinking. Many years later Ruth told her then teenaged granddaughter that a couple of weeks before Fritz died, she woke up in the middle of the night. Paralyzed with fear, she watched as the angel of death looked at her and then pointed his finger at her husband. She knew then, he would die. Widowed in her 40’s, Ruth never remarried.

As the years went by many of Ruth’s children became bitter and estranged from each other and their mother. Except for Margot who escaped these family feuds by moving to Canada, and Frank the youngest of the six who had a close relationship with Ruth.

Ruth never revealed much about herself, even when asked by her granddaughter. Although she never really let her guard down or easily showed affection, there were hints and clues that made it obvious she cared.

Ruth drank most of her adult life and smoked filter-less cigarettes that came in a red pack, yet she remained remarkably strong and active for most of her life. In her 70’s she told her eldest, “I just want to make it to my 80th birthday and bring in the year 2000.”

Ruth, having lost most of her eyesight due to glaucoma, celebrated her 80th birthday surrounded by all her children in August 2000. She had achieved her wish. Sadly she passed away several months later in February, 2001.

Ruth was tall, loud and strong. Her granddaughter remembers her laugh and her vice-like grip on her arm. It would seem that Ruth’s anger was a shield of protection – an automatic defensive reaction to any threat that came against her.


Related posts:

Our Families and Why We Are the Way We Are

Four Generations of Women – Part 1

Four Generations of Women – Part 2

Four Generations of Women – Part 3